Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fall Not In New England

I'm from Connecticut. I say that and people think:

Admit it. You read "Connecticut" and thought: mansions, autumn, an image of the society perhaps drawn from a 1940's film starring America's favorite crooner, Bing Crosby.

When I tell people, especially out here in California where few of my brethren live, I can see those exact images pop into their heads. Being from there is funny, because when I think Connecticut, I think:

New Haven-style pizza, especially Frank Pepe's exceptional pie, and the colorful Sicilian community in my hometown, where I actually went to junior high with a kid named "Sebby Italia." And in some ancient lizard part of my brain, there's still that imprint of autumn in New England, despite my distinct memories of clogged sewers and slippery roads.

So San Francisco autumn is, frankly, a disappointment. Fall is less a season than a bellwether of winter, when rain charges across the Golden Gate and spreads across the sky in a suffocating gray pillow that soaks us from December through April.

One recent year--was it 2007 or 2006?--it rained every single day in March. You try: you buy knee-high rubber boots in pink, think of finding a sturdy parasol when next in London, book a weekend in Mexico as a last gasp.

In October you see the faces of people on the street, and you think: it's coming. You do not think of leaves, harvest pies, that hollow weight and prickly smell of pumpkins in a field. But you know what we've got on you, New England? This:

It is still 70 degrees, warm enough to wear only a scarf to the market at 7 a.m. Autumn fruits and vegetables are fantastic: fresh almonds, weird squashes, misty cardoons. We never had to invent something so morally repulsive (and secretly delicious) as gelatinous canned cranberry sauce.

This time around: persimmons. If you've seen them before, you may be more familiar with the squat, pumpkin-shaped fuyu variety. When ripe, the hachiya melts into a custardy texture that seems interesting to cook.

We'll see when they ripen later this week...